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‘Keep speaking out’, UN chief urges in message to World Youth Forum

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In Glasgow, Scotland, people take part in a demonstration for climate action, led by youth climate activists and organized on the sidelines of the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26).

Although everyone has been deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact on young people has been “especially heartbreaking”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday. 

In a video message to the World Youth Forum in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, he urged participants to help shape a better world after the crisis, in line with the conference’s theme. 

“Building a better future starts today.  So, to the young people attending this forum, keep speaking out. Keep identifying the solutions and actions we need to recover.” 

The Secretary-General reeled off some of the devastating impacts COVID-19 has dealt the world’s youth.  

Calling for change 

More than 1.6 billion have had their education disrupted, while unemployment in their ranks has grown.   

Young people have also seen access to services such as health care and counselling dwindle, during a challenging period for mental health. 

At the same time, they have stepped up. 

“In the streets, and online, they’re calling for change — demanding equality, peace, justice and action on the climate crisis,” said the Secretary-General. 

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“They’re supporting one another – in their neighbourhoods and on social media. And through events like this one, they’re providing ideas and solutions on how communities can rebuild, and emerge stronger from the pandemic.” 

Message to leaders 

The forum runs through Thursday and is being held under the theme of Back Together: The World After COVID-19, which the UN chief said is a reminder that there is no time to lose. 

Having admonished young people to continue speaking out, the Secretary-General also delivered a message to leaders and policy makers in attendance. 

“As you look to recovery, look to young people,” he advised.  “Young people are an incredible source of ideas and innovative solutions.  Their needs must come first in policy and investment discussions.” 

Mr. Guterres said he looks forward to hearing the results of the forum, and to working with participants to shape a better future, beyond the pandemic. 

Peace, Development, Creativity 

Discussions at the World Youth Forum revolve around three tracks: Peace, Development and Creativity. 

It was first held in Sharm el Sheikh in November 2017, according to the official website. 

The initiative was developed by a group of young Egyptians at the National Youth Conference that April, who proposed the idea of holding a dialogue with counterparts from around the world. 

Since then, three sessions have been held, with the last taking place in 2019. 

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